Flying to the Aid of a Snared Bull

Published on the 4th of June, 2016

On the 20th May 2016 visitors sighted a bull with a severe cable snare injury to his leg when he happened to frequent a waterhole in the Northern Area of Tsavo

On the 20th May 2016 visitors sighted a bull with a severe cable snare injury to his leg when he happened to frequent a waterhole in the Northern Area of Tsavo. The elephant’s leg was extremely swollen, and it was clear the cable snare was cutting through to the bone, and his heavy limp indicated that he was in extreme pain.  KWS  were contacted and in turn reported the incident to Angela at DSWT Headquarters so that a SKY VET could be flown down to administer timely treatment before he disappeared into the vast wilderness that is the Northern Area. Dr. Poghon who heads the DSWT Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit was in the States for two weeks on a ‘course’.

The elephant bull was in the company of 3 other bulls and was still in good body condition, and the DSWT/KWS anti poaching team was immediately mobilized to monitor his movements while logistics were arranged.


KWS Veterinary Officer Fred Oliango was on standby and available and flown down to Tsavo in a helicopter to provide a stable platform to dart the elephant from in such thick bush.  Going in on foot would be an extremely challenging and risky approach in these circumstances.  It was a few hours before the SKY VET team were on hand, and using the helicopter the bull was guided into an open area before being darted.  The helicopter also helped herd his friends off to a safe distance so that the ground team and Vet could immediately attend to the bull the moment he sunk to the ground.  He fell on his haunches which is not a satisfactory position for a heavy animal, so the team pushed him to one side, before setting about cutting him free of the winch cable snare.  The cable snare was embedded deep in the soft tissue causing a nasty wound.

The cable snare was cut loose using heavy duty wire cutters and removed from the wound which was then cleaned thoroughly and treated.  Long acting antibiotic were administered too, and his wound finally covered with green clay, promoting rapid healing thanks to its remarkable antiseptic qualities and drawing properties. Once everyone was at a safe distance the Vet administered the antidote and it was not long before he rose to his feet.


What has been comforting is that he has chosen to remain in the area, and on a few occasions has visited the Orphans waterhole in Ithumba, and we have been able to monitor his progress closely, and by months end he was hardly even limping with his wound healing beautifully, free from infection.


Snare wounds are the crudest form of poaching; causing long drawn out and agonizing deaths that we at DSWT are all too familiar with. Little orphan Mwashoti, had similar wounds to this big bull also caused by a nasty snare wound. Unfortunately Mwashoti’s injuries were too severe for him to remain in the wild and he was relocated to the Nairobi Orphanage. Now over a year on Mwashoti has made a miraculous recovery and is on his journey back to the wild at the Umani relocation Unit specifically designed for elephants with disabilities. Our Aerial, Ground and Veterinary Teams will continue to monitor this magnificent bull but this story thankfully had a very happy ending.